Modifications & Accommodations

You have just finished reading the section on collaboration. Hopefully, this section stimulated to think about how students with disabilities can effectively be included in the general education curriculum. Did you come up with ideas about how students with disabilities could participate in general education classes that included making changes? You may have thought something like, ‘Well, he could do it if he just had this or that’. This is why we have modifications. Modifications and accommodations are the “this” and “that” which allow students with disabilities to participate in general education classes. Without modifications, some students with more severe disabilities would have a very hard time participating in the general curriculum.

The 2004 Amendments to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) require that a student with a disability be provided with "supplementary aids and services” as needed to enable him or her to succeed in the least restrictive environment. These supplementary aids and services can be provided in general education classes to enable students with disabilities to be educated with students without disabilities. Many times, the learning goals, activities, and materials can be modified so that students with disabilities can actively participate in the general education curriculum in a meaningful way. It is important to remember that the curriculum should be modified so that students can have access to the general education curriculum while working on their specific IEP objectives.

You may hear the words “modifications” and “accommodations” used interchangeably when referring to special education, but they are not the same. Modifications occur when a change is made to the curriculum in order to adjust to the needs of the student, for example breaking a lesson down into its two main ideas for the student to learn. Accommodations are aids that the student uses to access the general curriculum, such as a sign language interpreter. Accommodations do not change the curriculum itself, only how a student is able to access it. Assistive technology is another example of an accommodation that can be used in order for students with disabilities to participate in general education classes. For example, students who have difficulty writing can use an iPad or computer to write a sentence or a report. They can also listen to the computer read their work out loud to them. Of course, students can use both modifications (that alter what they are expected to learn) and accommodations (that help them access that curriculum or enable them to complete their assignments like everyone else). 

Watch these students with significant disabilities use the iPad application Go Talk Now! to present to a group of people about their work ( and go on a Community Based Instruction activity! (

View the following link to find out about modifying the curriculum and providing accommodations for students with disabilities. Choose one student with a disability with whom you have class and list at least three possible modifications or adaptations that could be used in his or her general education classes. For each example, state whether it is a modification or adaption and describe why it is needed. (For example, Jeremy needs picture cues about Martin Luther King during history class because he isn’t able to read written words.)

There’s a poster that says “If you thought the wheel was one of the most important inventions in human history…you’ll love the ramp!” The illustration shows a person in a wheelchair sailing to victory in a race as they speed down a ramp while the non-wheelchair users run to keep up. Modifications, collaboration, assistive technology, adaptations, and accommodations all “build a ramp” to full access, participation, and inclusion in our schools and in the community.